Here it is, finally. Arriving three months into the year, with absolutely no relevance whatsoever. My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2008. As I mentioned in a past blog, it wasn't the best year for movies, and it took about 14 months to even see 10 I really liked (last year, you might remember, I had to struggle to keep my list under 20). 2008 also found me a little busier, and I little more poverty stricken, so I didn't make it to the movies as much either, unfortunately. There are still a TON of movies that look good that I haven't seen: Waltz With Bashir, Happy-Go-Lucky, Wendy And Lucy, A Christmas Tale, Gomorrah, Momma's Man, Synechdoche, New York, The Class, Australia, Trouble The Water, Standard Operating Procedure, Gran Torino, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (MAYBE), and obviously, Milk (obvious that it's supposedly great, not obvious that I pathetically couldn't get around to seeing it). I even somehow missed the double Kate Winslet delight of The Reader and Revolutionary Road! However, despite the time it took to find 10 movies I could get behind, and despite the fact that it isn't totally comprehensive, I feel no shame in my list. They might not be as good on average as the movies on my list last year, but I really do love them all. The purpose of this list is both to create a dialogue about these movies with my friends, and also to try and convince you to check these movies out and see how good they are for yourself. So don't be scared; I recommend these films with little to no reservations. Please, add them to your Netflix queue, and leave your happy, angry, or bewildered comments below.
Before I get started, I'd like to mention some movies from 2007 that may very well have made my last list had I seen them before last year's oscars. They are: The Diving Bell and Butterfly, The King Of Kong: A Fistfull Of Quarters, Mad Love, Rescue Dawn, and last, but probably most, The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford.
Oh, and I have one early pick for best movie of 2009:
Now, without further ado: The List.
10. Burn After Reading/Pineapple Express
I know, Burn After Reading LOOKED like another asinine screwball farce along the lines of The Ladykillers and Intolerable Cruelty, so you'll forgive me for skipping the theatrical run. I blame the ads, both for my initial misunderstanding, and maybe even for the general critical apathy for the film. Whatever. It might not be the Coen Brothers' best; it might not crackle with the same formal perfection as some of my favorites, like Blood Simple and Raising Arizona; but in forgoing their usual pleasures, they have made a movie that's genuinely tonally confounding, instead of thrillingly disjointed, and characters that are more than grotesque caricatures; they're scathingly brutal, intricately detailed sociological portraits of self-delusional, self-destructive self-obsession.
Another comic thriller hybrid that had me alternately scratching my head and busting my gut, Pineapple Express was a slightly less successful genre mashup, in my opinion. What's awesome about it are two things: its completely fun and original details, both big (underground experimental government pot bunkers) and small (terrariums containing dino-ramas in the outer edges of shots in the drug dealer Red's room), and, most importantly of all, the hilarious interactions between the different characters. Making up the dialogue as they go along always seems to work well for Seth Rogen and his cohorts, and in this case it suits the movie incredibly well too. Because they spend so much time hanging around talking, all the characters end up well drawn and lovable, even the killers and drug dealers. Now, because you gain such a connection to the characters, the filmmakers could have really created some really jarring and affecting mood shifts when people start getting murdered, and unfortunately they don't really take that path. Unlike Burn After Reading, the humor and the action are both played a little too broadly to have the impact of real world consequences. Look at the last scene, where Red bleeds to death while eating pancakes, and the silliness of the dialogue completely negates any possible emotional investment. But then again, the dialogue is so funny and unexpected, that it's strange scenes like this that really make the movie something special. The video Seth Rogen and James Franco made for the Oscars was a perfect extension of their killer chemistry, and of the weird and wonderful world of their film.
Honorable mention: I think Ben Stiller is kind of a genius, and I was really looking forward to Tropic Thunder, especially after seeing him make a fake "viral" ad on the MTV movie awards (my favorite trailer of 2008 by the way, if it counts). Sadly, this movie about self-absorbed actors (yet another action-comedy) doesn't quite live up to its potential. I mean, I liked it, but I don't know if it deserves a place next to Zoolander on my DVD shelf. It starts off great, with brilliant fake movie ads (and one really funny ad for a fictitious energy drink), and footage of a drugged crazed, blonde bowl-cutted Jack Black at a fake movie screening. But before long, like a huge, rusty piece of machinery, the plot begins to slowly, creakily chug to life, and somehow traps the characters in long unfunny stretches. Even when the movie is at its best, it betrays itself: in an action-packed escape from a group of drug runners holding Ben Stiller hostage, there are like 3 false climaxes. The sequence is so mishandled, not only does is lack the supense and excitement you assume they meant for it to have, it completely rips you out of the movie. One gets the feeling, when watching elaborate but ultimately boring shots of helicopters with people dangling out of them, dropping beautifully bubbling napalm into lush jungle vistas, that perhaps some of the energy that went into making the special effects could have possibly gone into creating an atmosphere where the comedians could really get into some sort of groove. Steve Coogan and Bill Hader are basically wasted in this often lifeless contraption, and Danny McBride, SO FUNNY in Pineapple Express, shows absolutely none of his incredibly magnetic comedic persona. Matthew McConaughey is miscast in a role meant to go to Owen Wilson (who would've been perfect). Jack Black, perfect in the opening scenes, is given nothing to do for loooooong periods (although one of my favorite parts is when he madly eats a live bat), and the character Alpa Chino, so rife with possibilities for lampooning rap culture, remains a one-note joke. But it's the character Kevin Sandusky, played by Jay Baruchel, that may be the biggest missed oportunity. Baruchel plays a talented up-and-comer, an earnest kid thrilled to be working with his heroes on a huge, important film. He's learned all his lines, he's read the book the script is based on, he's ready for his big break, and due to the ineptitude of everyone else involved, he has to watch it all slip away. How interesting would it have been if he had an undercurrent of entitlement that slowly revealed itself, the kind of smugness and false-modesty you see on the face of someone like Zach Braff. It could have been great! Instead, he is the most pointless part of a movie overfilled with pointless and unfunny elements that detract from all the great ideas that are intermittently explored. Still, Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., and Tom Cruise, all give insanely good performances, and the movie has enough clever, funny parts that I'd gladly watch it again. Heck, if the DVD cover is any good, I might even buy it after all. I'm weak.
9. Speed Racer
A little history: I was completely devastated by the end of the last Matrix movie. I mean, hurt. Walking out of the theater after watching the finale of the series peter out so pathetically, it was one of the most disappointing moments of my movie-going life. I was disappointed by a lot of movies this year, too. But not by Speed Racer. After destroying their beloved franchise, the Wachowski's return with an adaptation of a cheesy Japanese cartoon from the '60s that's as beloved as much for the strangeness of its dated, slightly stilted style as its genuine thrills. What's really cool about the movie is that although it's pumped full of retinal charring visual effects, it somehow stays true to both of those aspects of the original show. As for the special effects, they're ridiculous: digital cars are so souped up with levers and lifts that they hit against each other and battle like Street Fighters as they race around the tracks. This all happens against a completely computer generated background that's less like the lifeless-lifelike world of Revenge of the Sith than a Japanese-inflected version of scene in Who Framed Roger Rabbit where Eddie enters the blindingly bright world of cartoons. In one shot, a girl in garishly bright clothing leans into frame while a perfectly placed cherry blossom branch hangs behind her in front of cotton ball clouds in a bright blue cartoon sky. It's a beautifully staged shot that manages to combine elements of American blockbuster storytelling, traditional Japanese woodblock compositions, and hyper-bright anime cartoonishness. Now, I've seen superflat art like this by people like Aya Takano and especially Chiho Aoshima, but I've never seen anything like it in a movie before.
Speed Racer is action-packed, heady, and most importantly, FUN. (It's got a shot of a kid and his pet chimp riding a rogue segueway helter-skelter down a hallway playing air guitar to "Freebird" while dozens of scientists on their own segueways crash and skid wildly around them.) And yet, for all the movie's goofiness, the evil corporation that Speed must overcome is genuinely troubling; the villainous CEO of the company goes from silly-creepy to frighteningly serious, as he reveals to Speed that corporate corruption isn't just a part of the professional racing world, it's the very foundation its built upon. The revelation that Speed's entire reality is a corporate fabrication is very Matrix-like in its real-world implications... and the way Speed is able to break free of that supposed reality is almost as thrilling as Neo looking up to the sky and breaking the bonds of gravity in that first film.
One last thought: I always like when a movie starts out okay and gets great right before your eyes. But I LOVE when a movie can blow your mind in the first couple of seconds. When Speed Racer was starting, with the original theme music slowly but powerfully building up, and the red and yellow checkerboard motif from the original show appeared and then slowly twisted and mutated into psychedelic variations of itself, I got a thrill that lasted the whole movie.
8. Slumdog Millionaire
This movie had a lot of the craziest shots and the snappiest editing of any movie this year (and the Oscars apparently agree with me). But Slumdog Millionaire is more than just a prettified melodrama; the style actually elevates the story, legitimizes it, forcing you into a perspective where you witness active optimism being achieved by force of will. The fact that you can see the fairy tale ending coming from about the opening credits saps a bit of the suspense, and there just aren't the kind of wild or staggeringly beautiful moments that there are in Sunshine, Danny Boyle's last movie and my #3 favorite movie of 2007. But there is plenty of wonderful texture to lose yourself in. In fact, it's the movie on this list that I'd most like to watch right now (and I have a slight suspicion that if I had seen it a second time, it might have ended up at a slightly higher spot). And, contrived and unrealistic as it might be, it's still kind of wondrous to watch a homeless orphan, who's had to fight and scrap hard just to survive, simply step outside of a heavily striated caste system, and just go around it to fulfill his dream. It might not be my idea of how the world works, but the fact that the movie can make you believe, even if just for 120 minutes, is a pretty impressive trick.
7. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
I saw this movie right when it came out, what seems like eons ago, and I kind of... forget it, a little bit. All I remember is that it was shot poorly, edited poorly, staged poorly, and that it was hilarious. I know I really liked Jonah Hill and Paul Rudd. Jason Segel's performance ranged from amateurish to surprisingly impressive in different scenes, and that the presence of Russel Brand was... intriguing (he later went on to be my favorite interview on Late Night With Conan O'Brien of 2008. Oh, Conan...). I can't remember what specifically made me laugh, but the feeling it left me with was memorable enough for me to feel confidant in its placement on this list; I remember being entertained by Forgetting Sarah Marshall significantly more than I was watching the movies listed above, but not nearly as impressed by it as I was with the movies below.
One thing I HATED about Forgetting Sarah Marshall were those ubiquitous print-based posters around the city when the movie was coming out. They were just needlessly cruel, and their format reminded me of the frightening recent phenomenon of bullies posting anonymous slander on their classmates' myspace pages until they committed suicide or something. Thankfully, the movie doesn't really contain any of the posters' biliousness.
Disappointment: Step Brothers was from the exact same creative team, more or less, as Taladega Nights: The Balad of Ricky Bobby, so I went in with high-ish hopes. What I got barely qualifies as a movie. The only scene that I would recommend is the one where Will Farrell and John C. Reilly destroy things as they sleepwalk through their parents' house.
Disappointment: Be Kind Rewind was supposed to be my favorite movie, ever. I am a HUGE fan of Michel Gondry's other movies, especially Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep, and of all of his music videos. One thing I love about them is the way he creates his special effects in camera, so if you're quick, you can figure out how an effect is being achieved, and delight in the cleverness of it. You get to experience the effect, and you get the extra thrill of experiencing the creation of the effect before your eyes. In most movies, you just think to yourself, "huh, they did it with computers again." There's no engagement. Be Kind Rewind was going to have the characters of the movie actually creating the special effects with their own video equipment, so not only would we be able to enjoy the creation of the effects by proxy, we'd have our own on-screen surrogates to project our selves on! It should have been the perfect Michel Gondry movie (or at least the perfect Michel Gondry movie for me, whatever that's worth). Instead, its story and setting are weirdly arbitrary, the plot and message are absolutely cliche and heavy handed, and because the characters making the "Sweded" movies are supposed to be dolts, the special effects aren't even that special (the best thing to come out of the movie was Michel Gondry's own Sweded version of the movie's trailer). Let me reiterate: Jack Black and Mos Def, two actors I love, play dumb, unconvincingly, for the entire film. How am I supposed to feel vicariously clever when the protagonists of the movies are supposed to be idiots?
6. Let the Right One In
A Swedish (that's -ish, not -ed) movie about a normal kid who falls in love with a mysterious new kid in town who turns out to be a vampire. Yes, it's Sweden's infinitely superior version of Twilight, only instead of cheap tweeny thrills, you get a chilling parable on how evil perpetuates itself.
Disappointment: Cloverfield's trailer looked kind of cool, but it wasn't as incredible as a lot of internet nerds seemed to think it was. And the movie itself, although effective in its use of shaky cameras to capture the frightening immediacy of a moment of terror, was a waste of time. Boring back story, horrible writing, and characters of such little substance that the possibility of their deaths yields almost no suspense at all (the dark subway tunnel scene was pretty good, though). The question of "What would happen if a monster attacked Friends?" has still not been answered on film, as far as I'm concerned. Oh, and the fact that the movie uses 9/11 imagery to enhance its cheap effect is borderline gross.
5. The Wrestler/Rachel Getting Married
If there are two things I love in movies, they are pathetic characters and intense psychodrama (preferable familial). The Wrestler overcame what I think could rightly be seen as cliched and patronizing elements of its script with the incredible details and personal interactions in the world of low level professional wrestling. Oh, and what has to be the best performance of the year by Mickey Rourke. Still, even though I enjoyed the verite style of the movie, it seemed like something of a concession coming from Darren Aronofsky, who's spent his whole career nurturing an aesthetic hermetically sealed from outside influences.
Rachel Getting Married also employs a shaky hand-held camera to excellent effect, capturing tiny details of mood and place, and settling in for long stretches while we get to know all the various lead and supporting characters. The script slowly unviels the details of the characters' pasts and the depths of their current desperation, but you never quite understand where the madness in the family was born. It's just an artsy, intellectual, racially enlightened and incredibly messed up family. The movie sucks you into the story with its style and script to the point that you feel like you're there.
You don't want to be there.
4. Man On Wire
The story of an irrepressible French tightrope artist insanely driven, against all laws (both physical and manmade) and logic, to walk a line between the Twin Towers in the 1970s. Working his way up from ever greater and more epic "happenings", crossing between two towers of the Notre Dame cathedral and beams of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, he and a small team plan, practice, and finally execute what has to be one of the most amazingly beautiful, surreal, sublime moments of public performance art, ever. Philippe Petit, whose tussled ginger hair, lithe body, and very French-looking elfin face make him resemble a grown-up Little Prince, is a man whose force of will is so intense, his personality threatens to crush you into a self pitying paste. But somehow, rather than make you dwell on your own pathetic laziness, the story of his accomplishments is pure inspiration.
However, just like in my favorite documentary of 2007, In The Shadow of the Moon, there is a sadness in the story of men who have achieved the realization of their greatest dream. Once they've flown so high, where else is there to go but down? The movie acknowledges this bittersweetness, but never does it subsume the continuing wondrousness of the accomplishment itself. What's left in the end is not just an uplifting story about can-do spirit and a rebellious disposition, but also a touching memorial, an alternative myth of the Twin Towers as the cite of a magical, transcendent moment that can never be taken away.
Also, Man On Wire's Academy Award victory, and the speeches that followed, was my favorite Oscar moment.
Honorable Mention: I saw Werner Herzog's documentary Encounters at the End of the World after I'd already finished this list, and so even though I think I might have liked it a little more than some of the lower movies on this list, I'm having a hard time fitting it in. But I love this film about the brave, brazen few who choose to live in Antarctica, and you may too.
3. My Winnepeg
After last year's Brand Upon the Brain, my favorite movie of 2007, I was very excited for Guy Maddin's next film, but I didn't have incredibly high expectations. He had just directed his masterpiece, a semi-autobiographical fantasy filmed in an anachronistic style inspired greatly by the obscure and largely obsolete techniques of silent melodrama and soviet "Mountain Films", Japanese "benshi" readings and teen detective novels, and for his next movie he was going to attempt his very first documentary. How would he reconcile his own personal style with the demands of a fact-based movie? I was thrilled (and slightly confused) by the prospect, but more than willing to cut him a little slack. Turns out there's no need to handle my idols with kid gloves, even for my own benefit. My Winnepeg is just as funny, moving, and profound as Guy Maddin's other films, only with the added bonus of an incredible amount of very interesting Canadian history... if you can possibly extricate the facts from the lies that the director weaves so well. Perfect Canadian myth-making.
2. The Dark Knight
This was the most highly anticipated movie for me, personally, since The Royal Tenenbaums. Batman Begins was a beautiful, elegant film, once you got past a weak script by David Goyer (and a couple of other tiny flaws, which I will document more thoroughly in the near future... watch for my Batman Begins feature length audio commentary, coming soon). But believe me, once you watch it about 30 times, or so, its flaws become almost entirely ignorable.
The Dark Knight is just as epic, immersive, and about five times as kinetic as its predecessor, with virtually none of its flaws. Seriously, this movie is non-stop, and action-packed to the point of being stress-inducing (I had nightmares about Joker attacks, and of being on the edge of that Hong Kong skyscraper with Batman... I saw it in IMAX, okay, it was insane!). The economy of the camera work is spellbinding. It's as if the extra footage they hard-edit out of the shots creates a vacuum that just sucks you into the movie. The whole thing courses along to the troubling strains of some very scary music, and is brought to life by one of the best ensemble casts ever assembled. Maybe no individual moment of the movie captured my imagination like the shot from Batman Begins of Christian Bale in the Batcave, cowering in fear, surrounded by fluttering bats, slowly rising to his feet, feeding off of his fear in order to capture an almost otherworldly inner strength... but the shot of the Heath Ledger sticking his head out the window of a stolen police cruiser like a mad dog comes very close.
Honorable mention: Iron Man was okay. I love Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeff Bridges, but besides the acting, there's a lot to be desired. For one thing, I consider it a failure when you take a superhero out of a comic book, put him into the real world, and the best bad guy you can come up with is... an evil version of the hero. Iron Man did it, Spiderman 3 did it, both versions of The Hulk did it. If you're working in the fantastic realm of myth and mutants that is the world of comic book heroes, you should be able to think of something better than a slightly larger, darker-hued doppelganger of the protagonist. That's a lack of imagination, pure and simple. Also, last night I was watching The Dark Knight, and in the scene where the Batmobile was about to self destruct, a city worker eating a large sandwich looked on, dumbfounded. What struck me was that if this scene was in Iron Man, not only would there be a visible "Subway" logo on the sandwich, Batman would likely have to stop and say, "My car just crashed, I need a sandwich!" and make a quick detour on the Batpod for a 5 Dollar Foot Long (I'm referring mainly to the scnene where Robert Downey Jr. shamelessly buys a whopper after escaping from terrorists).
But I have to admit, the movie did have one great moment, in my opinion: Iron Man is a fantasy of ultimate Western military power used for good, and when he flies to Afghanistan or wherever to start blowing away bad guys, its nice wish fulfillment. But there's a problem when a terrorist takes a woman hostage, and the complications of real world applications of violence become apparent in the world of the film. Uh oh! But then, we see from within the helmet that the suit's weaponry is SO advanced that Iron Man can curve his projectiles around the criminal and save the hostage without putting her in any danger! It's a beautiful moment of fantasy confronting reality and then defeating it on its own terms. It's also ridiculous; the kind of tidy, simple solution that The Dark Knight warns is not only untrue, but dangerous.
One of my biggest problems with Iron Man is that when it came out, people on the internet and in the press started calling it "The greatest comic book movie of all time!" They do this with some movie every year. You see, it used to be that there was such a small number of comic book movies, and so many of them were popular only with a cultish, fringe fanbase, that it meant something to debate which super hero film was the best. Now there are like a dozen super hero movies every year, but for some reason, even though there are now like a hundred excellent comic book movie adaptations, nerdy internet culture cannot get over their inherent need to declare whatever movie just came out the latest and greatest of all time. But how can you even compare the smug, silly, corporate logo-emblazoned gaudiness of Iron Man with the epic intensity of Akira, or the sweeping beauty of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, both adapted from huge Japanese comic books by their own genius authors? Or are we talking strictly super heroes here? Well then what about the music video stylishness of The Crow? Or the genre-defining-though-not-strictly-comic-book-based action of The Matrix? Or The Incredibles? Basically, I don't like when people canonize movies willy nilly. Unless I'm doing it. Which I was just a minute ago before I got off topic. ... Well, now that I've dismissed the entire notion of "best of" lists, let's see if we can get back on track.
Honorable Mention: Another continuation of a recently rebooted franchise, Quantum of Solace is sadly not nearly as good as Casino Royale. The action is joyless, the plot leaves little room for the story to breathe, and we don't get to see Daniel Craig in bikini bottoms. But still, it's fun to fantasize yourself into the life of a spy while you watch, especially when Bond is romancing ungodly beautiful women, and even when he's playing hide and seek behind columns in a hotel lobby for some reason...
Disappointment: Hellboy II. Yet another movie ridiculously touted by some as the apex of comic book-to-film art. I liked the first Hellboy, but I thought there was a lot of room for improvement. The new movie looked promising, with a trailer that featured about a dozen amazing looking monsters, none of which were created with CGI! Turns out, creature effects are about all the movie has going for it. It's less taut than the first one, has little of the emotional heft of the first one, and Hellboy himself, such a great character in the first movie, is cartoonishly over the top. At least now I can really appreciate the original.
How is this not my favorite movie again?
Disappointment: Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. Harrison Ford is still a pretty big movie star, even though he hasn't been in a good movie in like 15 years. I used to think of him as a respectable presence in films, and so I was really worried about how he would hold up in his old role after all these years. As it turns out, he does a great job portraying an elderly Indy. The movie he's in, however, does not match his fidelity. Scenes play out in front of of CGI backdrops to the degree that the audience feels twice removed from the action (like a scene in which we look at the backs of the actors as they watch a cartoon-like computer rendering of an Aztec temple self-destruct and teleport itself into another dimension, all without so much mussing the hair of anyone in the film). Also, Indiana Jones has tried sidekicks before, in what USED to be the worst Indiana Jones movie, and it didn't work. There were a couple of decent parts, but the only scene I really liked, the only scene that captured the giddy spirit of the original films, was a scene where giant army ants ate a bunch of bad guys. No great story telling or wit or humor, just some scary-fun shots of people being devoured. Way to go, Spielberg.
Disappointment: X-Files: I Want To Believe. Yet another failed attempt to revive a classic franchise. Only this time the result isn't just a crappy misfire, it's a horrifyingly bad slap in the face. The movie and every actor involved look, act, and feel nothing like The X-Files. It seemed more like the kind of obscure rip off you might find on the shelf under the real X-Files movie at Blockbuster, with some confusingly similar name, like The Z-Reports or something. I'm not exaggerating, this was one of the worst things I've ever seen. The fact that it is now a permanent blot on the X-Files history, and a pathetic anti-climax to one of my favorite shows, is just depressing.
When my girlfriend and I came out of Wall●E, I looked at her and dismissively scoffed, "pfffft, that wasn't EVEN as good as Citizen Kane!" From the eerie opening shots of a desolate earth covered in mountains of man-made debris, I knew this was not going to be your typical kids' movie. Or your typical SOUND movie. As everybody knows, Wall●E forgoes with dialogue for its first perfectly conceived half hour. In the silence, we acquaint ourselves with the adorable titular robot, and come to terms with our dead, post-apocalyptic planet. Of course, humanity hasn't gone extinct; they're floating in a space station millions of miles away, in a bloated, idiotic, vaguely familiar state of devolution, conversing via needless high-tech tools and essentially living as the slaves of the technology they've created. Wall●E is a spiritual sibling of another movie that used a futuristic setting to brutally lampoon our contemporary shortcomings: the piercing comedy Idiocracy. Oh, and also, Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece 2001: A Space Odessey. The red-eyed HAL-like steering wheel that controls the space station isn't an empty reference: the vision of a spiritually dead mankind, in a state that's "just like sleep, except they don't dream," only to be redeemed and awakened by confrontation with a machine that is more emotionally alive, more human than they are... that IS 2001! But that's NOT all there is to Wall●E: where 2001 is cold and sterile, Wall●E deals with these grim and serious issues without ever losing the magic of its first beautiful act, because the narrative of the film is driven by an astute and tender love story, depicted with absolute poetic grace. This mix of heady intellectual fable and beautiful love story reconciles the ruthless dystopia of Stanley Kubrick and the fuzzy nostalgia of Steven Spielberg even better than A.I. In fact, Wall●E can stand next to any film by either of those auteurs with pride, at least in my DVD collection. I love this movie so much... I don't know, maybe my initial reaction was wrong after all...